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Eyeing Larger Vote Share in Tamil Nadu, Cong, BJP in Race to Woo Ramadoss’ PMK

Eyeing Larger Vote Share in Tamil Nadu, Cong, BJP in Race to Woo Ramadoss’ PMK

Observers believe the 2019 elections may be a close one and given the current scenario, PMK looks like the most sought-after ally for both the national parties.

Chennai: In the run-up to 2019 elections, speculation is rife that both the BJP and Congress are trying to woo Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) to be a part of their ‘mega’ alliance in Tamil Nadu.

Sources said talks between the BJP, AIADMK and PMK are underway.

The PMK is weighing its options ahead of taking a final decision. PMK’s founder S Ramadoss had last week put an end to speculations over the party’s alliance talks and said no decision has yet been taken on the issue.

“The party has authorised me to take a final decision on the alliance for the Lok Sabha polls. I am yet to take a decision and I will publicly announce when I take the decision,” Ramadoss has tweeted.

The PMK, in its general body meeting in Coimbatore on December 30, authorised the founder to decide on the alliance but added the party will ally with only ‘like-minded parties’ for the general elections.

Given the current scenario, PMK looks like the most sought-after ally for both the national parties. Observers believe the 2019 elections may be a close one and both the BJP and Congress want the PMK to help them get a larger share of votes in north Tamil Nadu.

RK Radhakrishnan, associate editor, Frontline, said: “The PMK has about 5 to 6 % vote share in parts of north Tamil Nadu and this has been proved yet again 20 years down the line after it was formed. In the last elections too, Anbumani Ramadoss projected himself as the CM candidate of the party. Though there has been no significant increase in the percentage of votes of the PMK, the fact that nearly 6% of the votes has remained intact is reason enough for both the parties to woo the regional party. Given the fact that there are no big stalwarts in this election with the deaths of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, the national parties seem to foresee a close election and believe that every vote will count and every ally will matter. It appears that they are making all-out efforts to woo anybody and everybody who is available and who is valuable to the charms of both these parties.”

Observers say seat-sharing talks would be a crucial factor for the PMK to take the final decision. The Congress and DMK have decided to form a ‘united opposition’ front to fight the BJP at the Centre. So far, the DMK has not been keen to rope in the PMK considering that seat-sharing would be a challenge as the former has to consider other regional parties, including Vaiko-led MDMK, VCK and the Left.

N Sathiya Moorthy, a political analyst, said: “In 2016, the vote-share margin between the AIADMK-DMK combine was at the lowest (one per cent) — 41:40. Contesting alone, PMK polled five per cent votes, a huge margin in context. Whatever they poll now is ‘transferrable’ to an ally of its choice. Congress wants to keep its options open vis-à-vis its seat-sharing talks with DMK. For BJP, it also means respectability. But for the PMK, DMK/AIADMK votes alone would matter, not those of BJP/Congress. Yet, it feels uninvited by the DMK and unsure of AIADMK, too. Their seat-expectations may become too much for the Big Two. The party wants the BJP or Congress as an alliance 'catalyst' of sorts.”

The PMK has been an ally of both the BJP and Congress in the Lok Sabha polls since 1996.

Its first Lok Sabha election victory was in 1998 when it allied with the saffron party. In the 2004 elections, it contested along with the Congress-DMK and won all the six seats. Two of its MPs were then made Union ministers — Anbumani Ramadoss was the health minister and R Velu was the minister of state for railways.

But the two ministers quit UPA-1 in March 2009 to form an alliance with the AIADMK, led by Jayalalithaa for the Lok Sabha polls. In the last 2014 elections, the PMK was a part of BJP’s rainbow alliance. The alliance won two of the 39 seats — one was with the BJP and the other with PMK.

Will the PMK decide to be a part of the BJP’s grand alliance like in 2014 or will it consider being a part of the Congress-led alliance similar to what it did in 2004 when the grand old party swept the elections, only time will tell.